19 February 2006

Aluta Continua

Yes my meeting at LASU, can u believe the Lagos State Government, they increased school fees for students from N 150 to N30,000!!! Little wonder they have been causing trouble. I didn’t know this when we arrived, and was surprised to see guards at the school gates, carrying AK-47, I asked my colleagues what the guns were about and they told me that there had been unrest on campus. They also assured me that AK-47 totting guards at the gates of a university, and not a maximum security prison was really the way to go. Apparently the students had matched and even exceeded the fire power of the guards!

Hmmm … We actually got in a little early and had to wait for our hosts to get the venue ready, I found that a bit odd, I mean they called the meeting but whatever. So they are ready for us and we go into the venue, it was in the main MBA lecture theater and feelings of nostalgia washed over me, I hadn’t been in a school lecture theater in like 7 years. Yup they had the mandatory dead wall clock! No time for reminiscing, on with the meeting. The meeting was between the schools bankers and the school authorities, and the DVC addressed us, I didn’t hear a word he said, his lisp was just so adorable! We were supposed to go through a powerpoint presentation, but the power was out, infact the DVC had to leave us to go attend to that (I thought that sounded odd, but I guess he must really be into micro-management). We carried on nonetheless, discussing business and all that, then the power came back on, the technical people went about preparing to start the presentation, I guess they where having some problems with the laptop they were using. Then all off a sudden they started packing up the equipment they set up (projector, stand, etc) I figured the location wasn’t really ideal for a presentation, large windows letting in way too much natural light and no blinds or shutters.

Then I heard it, the sound of angry students!!! Yawa! I am on a university campus dressed in a business suit and high heels in the middle of surrounded by high angry students who have latched on to a (worthy) cause!!! Yepa, I am the only child of my parents!!! We were advised to stay calm, one gentleman wisely asked us to put away the bottles of soft drinks in front of us (they had served us with drinks earlier). One of the ladies there took refuge under the jacket of her colleague while he was still in it. What’s the matter I asked, at least lets know what we were in for, we were assured that nothing would happen to us, and that we were safer in the theater. The kids apparently were looking for us and they eventually came to the theater and addressed us from outside. After hailing themselves (greatest lasuites and all that) they addressed us their ‘parents’ (I ain’t your parent. My kids are still in heaven!) and enjoined us not to join forces with the school authorities and the Lagos state government to extort them under the guise of collecting school fees. They went further to say that they believed we were here innocently, going about our normal business, and they believed that we really were not a party to this great injustice. Hence they would give us the grace to leave the premises intact, just as we arrived. They said the grace period would lapse once they had finished counting to 20 after which they would assume we were siding with the school authorities and the Lagos state government and they would be forced to eject us. It is wise to heed the advice of an angry student mob half of whom are high on God knows what. Kia I had stuffed my phones in my bag and was ready to go by the time they had counted to 5, this is not the time to appreciate the fact that university students can count! We had to leave through a tunnel of irate, high students, and the whole time I was thinking about my new earrings and berating myself for not removing them before leaving the theater. My head was filled with visions of one of them grabbing on them and tearing my ears from my head. Thankfully I was able to make it to the car unharmed and so did my colleagues. I must say that the students didn’t harm anyone that day, nor damage any of our cars or anything like that; they succeeded in spooking us out though! It took us about 30 mins to get out of the campus because they had blocked the main gate and all the roads leaving the theater.

We eventually did get out, and on our way back to the office, it occurred to me that the DVC wasn’t into micro-management, the guy was fleeing for his life, likewise there was nothing wrong with the equipment they wanted to use for the presentation, they had to stash them away so as not get them damaged or stolen! I learned from my colleagues that the main reason the students were angry was because during the last academic session, when they where still paying N 150 as school fees, there was wide spread fraud in the bursary as had been the case in previous years. The VC was really annoyed and threatened to get the EFCC involved, that threat alone convinced two professors to return a total of N22 Million to the school! Apparently this was in the papers (this was the first I was hearing about this) I was stunned. No wonder they are angry. If while they were paying such ridiculous fees as N 150 for a whole school session (150 will buy you a meat pie and a doughnut from Mr Biggs) some people could embezzle N 22 Million, there really is no way of explaining the N 30,000 increase to them, it would just not make any sense. I am guessing the government may be removing some or all of the subsidies the school has obviously been enjoying, which is forcing the school to look inwards and try and raise funds. But with the situation on ground fresh in everyone’s memory it’s going to be an up hill battle. Fine the student’s succeeded in breaking up our meeting, but nothing stops us from meeting at a later date outside the school for example, I actually feel that the school put us all in unnecessary danger. As I said earlier, thank God no one was hurt, and no damage was done, but what if they had gotten violent and killed someone? No matter what your justifications might be, the fact that N22 Million was embezzle-able from the allegedly ‘lean’ coffers of the school, students will see red, heck I am seeing red and I am not a student - yet! (I will write that pesky essay, just you wait!). Having the meeting on campus was like waving a red flag in front of a bull, thank God this particular bull didn’t charge hard enough to break the fence. I am curious though as to how the school authorities and the government intend to go about this whole increment thing. It’s a smart move on the part of the authorities to enlist the Banks in the collection drive, the students can just try I don’t see how they will stop people from paying into the schools accounts in the Banks, they might try to picket the Banks, but they would really be crossing the line and you know how much love Mobile Police have for the Nigerian student, it would be like Christmas coming early for them. They would probably continue with the unrest on campus and force the authorities to shut them down for goodness knows how long, while their lectures continue to get paid for work they are not doing. Eventually I see them negotiating the proposed fees downward though, but this one that they have mandated Banks to go ahead and collect monies from students. I really hope they have throught out how they will do this.

3 comments:

nigeria, what's new said...

Whao, thanks for taking me through hell and back again. I had a similar experience when I was in high school near yaba. Jakande, Marwa, Tinubu, Nigeria, what's new?

grace said...

I'm glad you escaped intact. One of my cousins attends LASU, and his mother told me that they beat up lecturers in the halls that day.

Anonymous said...

Hi my names are Ibrahim Keji
Aiyekoti,a student of University
of Abuja.Pls i will like
you to advice us on what
we can do about our S.U.G
cos its being run by the
management of the school
not the students.